Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

Mans relationship with machines.


Recommended Posts

I read this brilliant article on that topic by Jeremy Clarkson. I oddly feel very sad...


"At 7.51 am local time, Captain Mike Bannister eased the throttles forward, ignited the burners and I became one of the last hundred people alive today to go to the far side of the sound barrier without the benefit of a parachute.


Three hours later, as we neared the coast of Wales, we dropped back down to a gentle 500mph. And that was that. Supersonic transport for the paying customer was over.


By now, you will have read much tear-stained prose in all the newspapers about the premature death of Concorde. I fear I may have written much of it myself, saying the decision to can it was one giant leap backwards for mankind.


Everyone seemed to think the same way; even The Guardian and The Independent. And it was all summed up beautifully by the ballet dancer Darcy Bussell. “Why”, she asked “can it not be run at a loss? The National Ballet is.”


At New York’s JFK airport that morning, even the epsilons who load the bags onto Delta flights to Iowa stopped for one last gawp. All around the airfield, the emergency vehicles turned on their flashing lights. And with a crackling rumble, the last great reminder that Britain once was a force to be reckoned with, was gone.


At Heathrow, they came in their thousands to see the New York flight, and two others, land in line astern. There was live coverage from all the television networks. And none of them mentioned the fact that the day before, on Concorde’s last outbound flight, four of the paying passengers, who’d remortgaged their houses and sold all their furniture to be there, had forgotten their passports.


Even this heart-rending (but bloody funny) tale of people trudging back to their empty houses, was overshadowed by the death of an icon.


But hang on a minute. Why exactly did we all feel so sad? I mean, I don’t feel sorry for the businessmen who used it like a bus. It was their meanness in the latter years that got it killed. I don’t feel sorry for the people who serviced it, or worked in the cabin. They’ll get other jobs. And I don’t feel sorry for British Airways, either.


No, what I feel sorry for is the machine itself. For 27 years, it’s flown back and forth across the Atlantic, never putting a foot wrong. And then one day, no-one came to its hangar to hoover its carpets, or replenish its fuel tanks. One day, for no reason that it could possibly understand, its owners decided they didn’t want it any more.


I don’t want to sound soft, but think how your dog would feel if you did that: tickled its tummy and filled its bowl for 27 years and then one day, locked it in a kennel and never went back.



Concorde doesn’t understand profit and loss. It has no concept of risk or airworthiness certificates and it sure as hell wouldn’t understand Richard Branson’s ludicrous claim that he could keep it going. It’s a machine. It knows only how to fly very, very fast across the Atlantic.


But. Some machines become more than a collection of wires and glass and metal. They take on a personality and this is what makes their death hard to stomach.


I once visited the Davis-Monthan airbase in Arizona. We were there to film a giant guillotine cutting B52 bombers into small pieces and, I’m telling you, it hurt. Here was a machine that was built to deliver death and destruction. But it never knew that. It was created to do a job, and it did that job without complaint. So it would have to wonder “Why are they cutting my arms off?”


Titanic was another machine that warmed the corners of your heart, and so is my coffee machine. I’m also hugely fond of my noise cancelling Bose headphones. But you could take a hammer to this damn computer and I’d thank you for it. Same goes for my television and my mobile phone. But not my barometer, strangely.


We see the same sort of thing in the world of cars. Why do I think the Renault Clio has a soul when I know for sure that a Toyota Corolla does not? And why would I be saddened to see a Rover SD1 crushed, but unmoved completely by the death of its successor, the 820?


Last month on Top Gear we bought a Toyota pickup truck which had already covered 190,000 miles. Ten of which, probably, had been done on the road. After just a few hundred yards, I knew this was a car with some soul, it was the dependable labourer who’s been building dry stone walls for 40 years, and I began to hate myself for the pain I was going to inflict on it.


Over the next two days, I smashed it into trees, drowned it in the sea, crashed it into Bristol, dropped a caravan on it and set fire to it. And after each torment, it would cough back into life with a diesely working-man’s rumble. And sit there with half of the Bristol Channel in its eyes asking “Why are you doing this to me?”


Once, I fed a Volvo 340 into a crushing machine and felt nothing as the metal jaws ripped it to pieces, but each time I see our burned out, half dead Toyota sitting in the studio, it brings a tear to my eye. Weird.


Do not confuse this with an attachment that you might build toward your car. When you’ve had a few bumps, and a few bonks in the back, it’s easy to form an attachment. But I’m not talking about your relationship with the machine. I’m talking about the machine’s relationship with you.


When I had the Ferrari, I felt it was sad, sitting in the garage all winter, and yet I can cheerfully leave the Mercedes in the cold for weeks on end and not give its feelings a second thought. I don’t think it has any.


My wife’s Lotus, though, manages to look miserable and doe-eyed when it hasn’t been used for a while. Sometimes, and I’m not joking, I’m tempted to go out there and give it a blanket.


No car though gets close to the aching sadness I feel for Concorde. Next time I’m passing Heathrow, in this season of goodwill, I may drop in and buy it some soup.


Speaking of the season, have a jolly time and thanks for being a petrosexual."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd extend the feeling of "feelings" in machines to our guitars, too.


Ever notice how some guitars just don't bond with you, or you with the guitar? Whether costly or inexpensive, some simply become an extension of you, whether you're worthy of its best of fall far short.


Throughout history it's been the same, man and his sword, a lady and a certain set of knitting needles.


Some things cannot be explained. This is one of them.



Link to comment
Share on other sites



I guess I'd argue against Concorde being a monument to excess.


In technology, I think we need to push the envelope and thoroughly test new ideas. Without that we'd return to the age when a basic design for a spearhead didn't change for how many thousands of years?


To a degree I'd prefer to argue that we don't need our smartphones for a number of both technological and cultural reasons. But don't take that wrong, because I use mine for just about everything but shaving in the morning - and I'm old. (Yes, I get teased when they tell me, "Hey, you can't be texting, people over 60 just don't DO that.")


One might point even to more than a few technological dead ends that in the short run seemed failures by almost any measure, but were very important in furthering technological concepts.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bose cancelling headphones...my gf has those. She loves them.

I've noticed men and women like different machines.

Just look at top favorite cars ever for guys and girls.

Guys want Astons, Camaros...some flashy speedy thing.

Girls want a VW bug or some such adorableness #-o


The machine I am most grateful for is my washer.

I dry things on the line, but the washer saves my back and years of laundry duty.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I still dream about my Dodge Charger and that was 40 years ago. I literally have a dream where the Charger has been found and is really looking old and decrepit sitting in my driveway, but she still runs.


I was and I am still very attached to that machine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Farnsbarns

These pictures are getting ridiculous. If I weren't jealous enough of that, you've flown on conkers too. There's a word for people like you :P .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ain't flown on a Concorde...


Does a DC-3 count, both commercial and military? A DC military outfit that was either a DC4 or 6 (that one was a long time ago <grin>? For what it's worth... I really liked flying on the gooney bird



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice read. A little long, but it makes a good point if you actually READ it.


Especially, the part about "the machines relationship with you".


I been kinda addicted to BATTLESTAR GALACTICA lately, and the show focuses in part on the human-like cylons. So, kinda though provoking.


I mean, we create the machines. But after that, they go out into the world on their own, and in many cases, become a part of our lives. In that way, the are somewhat 'human', although without feelings or thoughts. But, because they become part of our lives, we tend to view them in certain ways as we would a person. And we create attatchments to them, as we would poeple. And, we get "feelings" for them, and while we realize they don't feel or think, the RELATIONSHIP we share can cause us to think of them as having somewhat of a soul.


I think it is also interesting, that as we build machines, WE tend to build them with something of a "soul" in a way. We tend to give them something of a personality, things or features that may set them apart, or assist THEM in what they do in our lives. I think as we build them, we have a tendancy to make them have a sort of personality in these ways for OUR purposes and attachment, even beyond strictly it's usefulness, because it makes it easier or better for us to use, or more valueable. Not because THEY are human, but because WE are human.


I don't really know a word for it. But, just as it is difficult to describe or know exactly what it is that gives a human a soul, that "thing" beyonds flesh and brain function, it seems that for many of us, we kinda look for that in some machines. Not quite the same, but that "something" we find in machines that as we appreciate them, we try and find what that "thing" is.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me one of the scariest lines in a movie comes fron "2001: A Space Odyssey" when HAL says "Just what do you think you are doing, Dave?" A very scary and wrong relationship between man and machine.

God intended for man to have dominion over machines.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



I fear we're long past the point of machines out of control.


Vehicle computers currently can mess up in interesting ways that will halt the engine and not allow a restart.


Honestly, I'm awaiting without no joy for another time I'll help bundle a frozen body from a vehicle in this country. It won't take a heart attack and engine halting because of no fuel. It will be due to the vehicle getting a bit of a blizzard-wet computer and, in spite of plenty of fuel and battery power, it decides to shut down because it's forgotten whether it's a four or six or eight cylinder engine, gas or diesel...


In effect, the "Hal" line overrides man's desire to keep an engine running for survival. Ah, but we need them to get us back to the fuel efficiency of the 1950s, eh? (My huge 1958 Chrysler even when half worn out gave 27 mpg at 75 mph with six passengers and luggage and did keep running in several northern plains blizzards. Without a computer.)



Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...